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Vista Book Group: 1Q84

The Vista Book Group’s January discussion was on Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. 1Q84, originally published in Japan as three separate books, was translated to English and released internationally as one lengthy book (925 pages). But don’t let the size of the book scare you off, because if you do you will miss a compelling, interesting and, one might even say, weird story. Of the ten members that made it to the meeting, five of us finished the book and four of us were still working our way through, but were determined to finish. Almost all of us felt that the book was well worth the effort and time invested, although some felt that the book could have been shorter and still been a good read.

1Q84 is made up of three books, each covering three months of the year of 1984. Book One covers the months of April through June and continues through to Book Three which covers October through December. Some of us felt Book One started off slow, but once we made it through the first couple of hundred pages, the story really took off and the second and third books flew by in comparison. For much of Book One Murakami seems to spend a great deal of time introducing the reader to the two main protagonists and giving a firm foundation for his alternate reality of 1984.

Aomame, running late for an appointment and stuck in Tokyo expressway traffic, takes the enigmatic advise of a taxi driver and shortly thereafter finds that the world is not exactly the same. Upon noticing various changes going on around her she is forced to conclude that she has somehow made her way from the world she knew to a kind of parallel world which she calls 1Q84, Q for question mark. While Aomame makes her living as a sports trainer, she also secretly assassinates abusive men with the assistance of a wealthy dowager and her hardnosed bodyguard. Tengo, a part time mathematics instructor at a Tokyo cram school and aspiring novelist, allows his editor Komatsu to talk him into ghost writing a novella with the beautiful teenage Fuka-Eri who has ties to the mysterious cult/religion Sakigake. Books One and Two are told from the alternating viewpoints of Aomame and Tengo. Book Three adds a third narrator, the frightfully ugly and menacing private detective Ushikawa. As the story progresses the reader learns that Aomame and Tengo are closely linked together and have been since they were children and that their connection is necessary if they are to leave 1Q84, a world with two moons, and make it back to “real” world of 1984.

1Q84 leaves the reader with more questions than answers. Why do some characters just seem to drop away even though they seem to be integral to the story at first appearance? Why does the author repeat certain phrases over and over? Is it due to the translation from Japanese to English or something inherent to the author’s writing style? Is there more than one reality, more than 1984 and 1Q84? Character actions and motivations often seem somewhat bizarre, allowing for a wide range of discussion topics and many viewpoints from book group participants.

1Q84 can be described as a love story, a mystery, a work of fantasy, science fiction, magical realism or literary fiction. However you describe it, it is a fascinating read. This book received numerous glowing reviews and found itself on many best of lists including Booklist Editors' Choice - Best Fiction Books: 2011, Goodreads Choice Awards: 2011, Library Journal Top Ten: 2011 and the New York Times Notable Books - Fiction and Poetry: 2011.

1Q84 will not be for everyone, but if you give it a chance you may be pleasantly surprised and entertained. Also, if you enjoy listening to audiobooks, 1Q84 in audio format makes for a good listening experience. It has both a female and male narrator and the reader gets a feel for the Japanese pronunciations of names and places, not to mention the ‘reading’ goes a little faster.

Our group members and the publisher came up with the following read-a-likes: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson, The History of Danish Dreams by Peter Hoeg, 2666 by Roberto Bolano, Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco, Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut and Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

The alternate reality or parallel world theme lends itself to two “watch-a-likes”: Once Upon a Time and Fringe. In addition, Murakami has a great many allusions to Western pop culture, music and literature laced throughout the book. Oliver Twist and Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens and of course 1984 by George Orwell get mentions, just to name a few. A sampling of the music references include Louis Armstrong, Bach, and Janacek (his Sinfonietta is central to the story). Some of the movies mentioned are Thomas Crown Affair (1968), The Getaway (1972) and Paths of Glory (1957). Check below for catalog links to these books, DVDs, and music CDs.

The Vista Book Group will meet again on February 27, 2013 in Film and Sound at the Main Library. We will be discussing Life of Pi by Yann Martel. As always you can obtain a book group copy by calling 929-3400 or by inquiring at the General Reference/Research Desk on the second level of the Main Library.


1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Amazon Says: “Murakami is like a magician who explains what he’s doing as he performs the trick and still makes you believe he has supernatural powers . . . But while anyone can tell a more...
Amazon Says: “Murakami is like a magician who explains what he’s doing as he performs the trick and still makes you believe he has supernatural powers . . . But while anyone can tell a story that resembles a dream, it's the rare artist, like this one, who can make us feel that we are dreaming it ourselves.” —The New York Times Book Review   The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo. A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled. As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector. A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s—1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers. less...
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1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (U.S. book trailer)
Chantal W. Says: 1Q84 Book Trailer
YouTube Says: "Murakami is like a magician who explains what he's doing as he performs the trick and still makes you believe he has supernatural powers . . . But while anyone can tell a sto...
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Leos Janacek Sinfonietta WDR-Sinfonieorchester (2007)
Chantal W. Says: Leos Janacek Sinfonietta WDR-Sinfonieorchester (2007)
YouTube Says: WDR Sinfonieorchester (2007) Jukka-Pekka Saraste Leos Janacek - Sinfonietta...
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